Book Review: Mockingjay

People warned me that I might not like how this story ends. I have really mixed feelings about this book. It has some aspects that kind of drag – I get that Katniss is suffering from some pretty severe PTSD, and through the whole book, she’s barely holding it together. It does get to be a bit much, though, and I wonder if it might have been better written in third person point of view, and switch POV characters every so often, to give us a break from Katniss’s slow mental degradation. It wasn’t a problem in book one – it wasn’t old then. But in book two it was getting old, and in book three it gets tiresome. The author had already established that this was a first person, single POV series in book one, though, and it was probably too late to change it. I think that’s why many people have found the movie, especially the second one now, more palatable. The movies don’t drag you through Katniss’s mental anguish ad-nauseum, however plausible that mental anguish is.

The story itself – I though was great. The last book really puts the finishing nails on a theme, and it’s not just a theme about oppression, or poor versus rich, or even about reality TV. It’s a theme about media, and the massive amounts of power that control over information gives the people who have it. In this book, Katniss is no longer a pawn of the Capitol, she’s been rescued and brought to district thirteen. Where now she’s a pawn for district thirteen.

Her act of defiance in book one makes her a mascot for rebellion in book two, which she desperately needs to suppress, but fails miserably. Now in book three, she’s asked to embrace that role, but finds, as in book two, that she can’t act to save her life. They end up taking her into combat situations in order to force something genuine out of her, because her acting is so terrible, they can’t otherwise put together any footage of her that would inspire people.

So now we have the Capitol and District Thirteen in a media battle, with Beetee periodically wresting control of the airwaves to broadcast inspiring footage of Katniss, while the Capitol is trying to vilify her.

I couldn’t help but think that District Thirteen’s leader was given a name like “Coin”, with it’s capitalist connotations deliberately as foreshadowing.

I won’t bother spoiling the climax, but the climax was great, as was the followup to it.

Then there was these last five pages tacked on the end that fucking ruined it all.

*spoiler alert*

Of course she had to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing, right?

No. No, she didn’t. Katniss spent the entire story progressing towards a mental state where I couldn’t believe she could ever have a healthy relationship with anyone, let alone either of them. The story ends with her a shattered human being, the world and the war having left her that way. She gave more than her life, she gave her sanity, to fight for a better world, and she paid a price and that’s the way the story ends.

And then there’s the last five pages that basically go “And then a couple years later, I got over it, Peeta was still around so we got married and had kids and lived happily ever after. Gayle? Who’s Gayle?”

I felt betrayed by the author, but have a theory. My theory is that the author submitted the manuscript without that tacked on the end. And my theory is that her editor or agent told her, “You have too many fans who won’t be satisfied with that ending. You have to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing.” And I think they made her add that. Or maybe it wasn’t her editor, maybe she just felt so much pressure from fans to give Katniss a happy ending, that she caved, even though she knew how the story should really end. Because that bit on the end feels tacked on as an afterthought – it’s so out of sync with the rest of the book, it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same story.

That’s what I think, and I’m just going to keep imagining the book without that bullshit last couple pages.

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8 responses to “Book Review: Mockingjay

  1. That’s exactly what I thought when I read it! I like the way they end the war but the personal bit is kinda unsatisfactory… But then I thought it made sense in a post- apocalyptic kind of way, maybe. Horrible life for her kids though… :-/

  2. I read these about a year ago now, so I’m trying to recollect my conclusions then.

    I liked he idea that Katniss might be able to find some resolution in her personal life, and I was satisfied with the choice she made. There were a couple of reasons, first it seemed to me even from the first book that Gale and her was a platonic thing, if she’d ended up with Gale I’d have thought that was wrong. She loved Peeta (in the sense of Eros love) and that was clear from the off. After this love triangle thing was pitched throughout the whole trilogy, from an artistic point of view the whole story needed some resolution, this work is not some ‘slice of life’ postmodern existential novel – it needs conclusions, but those conclusions neede to be ‘messy’.

    What would have made a travesty of the whole thing is if Peeta and Katniss were presented as “they just lived happily ever after and everything was alraight” when both of them are damaged people, and should find life hard after all that; but I like the idea of damaged people trying to work out how to be together, that’s a realistic proposition.

    I also thought the editors / agent might have had a word, but my sense was that this was to make this a three book story. For me the heart of the story is the process of the Hunger Games and the context in which they happen, and that’s all in book 1. The second and third books are fine, but are a kind of conclusion to book 1, the whole thing feels like part of this trend to do three or more books when one would do.

    • Thing is, I just didn’t see her developing a love relationship with either of them. I can imagine it happening, slowly, over a lot of time, that she could recover, but that didn’t happen on the page. On the page it was just “oh, and then I got over it and we all lived happily ever after.” To me, that’s the ending of another story, and not the story the author was telling. It’s the ending of a book four that was never told – but that wouldn’t be the same sort of books the first ones were, or anything that her readers would be interested in reading.

      • An epilogue in other words. Some people hate them on principal, likewise prologues, though I have no problem with either. Collins seems to have followed the old advice to leave out the parts readers don’t read.

        Of course, every reader makes his or her own ‘mind-movie’ of a book, regardless of the author’s or Hollywood’s intentions. People ‘filmed’ stories in the mind thousands of years before movies were invented. You’re perfectly entitled to continue leaving the end of ‘MOCKINGJAY’ on the cutting room floor of your mind, Lindsay.

  3. I’m reminded of a documentary on a ‘STARGATE SG1’ DVD boxset which itemized the number of times Colonel Jack O’Neill, among other characters, was wounded, tortured, killed and resurrected in the series. They freely acknowledged a real person, however strong, probably would not have survived a fraction of it, much less laugh it off.

    Likewise the young protagonist of my own WIP. I do acknowledge his violent adventures affect him, but I do not claim psychological verisimilitude more rigorous than that usually expected by readers of essentially escapist fare. It is very far indeed from a ‘slice-of-life’ postmodern existential novel, to borrow Andrew’s phrase.

    J. R. R. Tolkien showed Frodo as permanently affected by his LOTR adventures, despite their ultimate success. So Frodo had to leave leave Middle Earth. Interestingly, Tolkien himself was invalided out of WW1 with what was then called ‘Shell-Shock’.

    Nonetheless, real people do recover from PTSD, as did Tolkien, so maybe the ‘MOCKINGJAY’ epilogue is not so far-fetched. Mind you, I’ve read none of that trilogy yet and only seen the first movie, which I greatly enjoyed.

    • I don’t find the ending far fetched so much as it lacks transition – it just feels like the ending to a book four that was never written because it would be boring because all it would be is Katniss getting over things. It’s more than just leaving out the things the reader skips, it just felt like part of a different story altogether.

      The movies are very well done – they’re very true to the books. There may be some minor things that have been left out, likely for space reasons, but they haven’t changed anything that changes the spirit of the story. The only thing is, particularly with the first one, you don’t get as clear a sense that Katniss was acting out being in love with Peeta.

  4. I was happy with the ending. I never saw Katniss with Gale and by the last book that was reinforced by [spoiler alert]

    …the way he embraces violence and designs deadly weapons. I saw Gale as ruined by his times in a way far more irretrievable than Katniss. So it was validating to me that she wound up with Peeta. Peeta represents kindness, goodness, softness–all of the aspects of masculinity that are generally derided in our culture. I liked that she chose him because it validated that kind of masculinity. Did she have to choose anyone? That’s a good question. I usually get really annoyed at how romance-focused YA books are, even those that are not in the romance genre. I was really pleased that the love triangle was as secondary to the plot as it was. Perhaps it would have been even stronger to unravel it completely. But at some level I believe that most people are happier with a partner, and I did want to see some sort of comfort for Katniss in the end. I don’t think it’s unrealistic that she would somewhat recover (I don’t think she’s actually “fine” in the end). I have known a couple of people with PTSD, one in particular who had a really bad time with it. He is doing better, and he’s married and has a kid.

    I get what you’re saying, though, about it being abrupt. But I just saw it as an epilogue as someone else said. Kind of like Harry Potter suddenly being an adult with kids at the end of that series.

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